By this morning you should be fully recovered from the ordeal of Thanksgiving weekend; the inertia usually engendered by stuffed turkey and overstuffed people should have worn off by now, and you're ready for Monday morning all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
At the risk of bursting your bubble of euphoria, this seems like a good time to talk about 1984 income taxes and about things you can do before Dec. 31 to reduce the pain of rendering unto Caesar.
Before looking at year-end strategies, take a few minutes to make a rough estimate of your 1984 taxable income, exemptions, deductions and credits. Comparison of anticipated figures with those for 1983 should give you a feeling of how the 1984 bottom line is likely to differ.
Most people will find that things have not changed very much, although tax rates for 1984 are about 4 percent lower than for 1983. Under present law, the only change scheduled for 1985 is the introduction of indexing, which is expected to have only minor impact. Of course there is a possibility of major tax legislation next year -- and perhaps a tax increase of some kind to help deal with the problem of the massive federal deficits.
Since there is this uncertainty about the 1985 tax structure, the general rule applies: If you expect to be in about the same financial position in 1985 as in 1984, delay as much income as possible to next year, and accelerate as many deductions and credits as possible into 1984.
If you're a salaried employe, you don't have any real flexibility in the timing of your pay check. If you get a regular year-end bonus, you might be able to slip that from 1984 into 1985. If it's important to your employer to have the expense in his 1984 tax year, you might ask him to mail it to you on Dec. 31 -- he'll get the deduction in 1984, but you won't report the income until your 1985 return.
The self-employed have a little more freedom to juggle their income. For instance, if you normally send out invoices on the 20th of each month, hold your December billing until the 30th. Since most people pay bills in response to invoices, that should move a substantial part of your December income to January.
If you generally itemize deductions, you can shift deductions from 1985 back into 1984 regardless of whether you're salaried or self-employed. If you're making quarterly payments on a church pledge, for instance, you can send the payment for the January quarter at the end of December and claim the extra deduction on your 1984 return.
Making a pledge in December won't help -- it's the date of payment that determines the deduction. But if your church accepts payment by credit card, you can have your cake and eat it too -- the deduction comes in the year you make the charge, but you won't have to pay the credit card company until the following month.
The same holds for medical payments. Qualifying for a deduction for medical expenses will be harder for 1984 because of new rules on deductibility. (Expenses must exceed 5 percent of adjusted gross income, instead of 3 percent as in past years.) But if you have a total large enough to claim already, try to pay all your medical bills by the end of the year to get the deduction. If your 1985 total turns out to be lower, you may lose the deduction altogether by holding the payment until next year.
Be reasonable -- tell your doctor your intentions. He or she might like to delay the income until 1985, so you can mail the payment Dec. 31. You get a 1984 deduction, while the doctor gets 1985 income.
If you're making payments of estimated state income tax, send the Jan. 15 payment off on Dec. 31 so that you can include that amount on Schedule A of your 1984 federal return. (Of course, you take credit for all payments, whenever made, on your state tax return.)
If you're planning the purchase of a new car, buying it before the end of the year will give you the deduction for sales tax in 1984. But be careful; extra personal property tax on Jan. 1 property might turn out to be more than you save on your income tax return.